It all started at a conference in 2009. The presenter was giving a talk on web form design and user behavior. His company recently started using eye tracking technology to study on-site behavior. The information they were able to gather through this new method was immensely helpful, but the price tag was, well, just immense – $40,000 for three months worth of data.
This was when the seed was planted in the head of YouEye‘s co-founder and CEO, Kyle Henderson.
Henderson and his college roommate Derek Carter started playing with the idea in their spare time. “We did the necessary R&D, and quickly realized making an affordable version of this technology was very feasible,” says Henderson.
Before long, the duo moved to DC to pursue their idea full time. Henderson’s background was in product development. In order to make his and Carter’s idea take off, however, Henderson needed to assume the role of business operations – specifically raising money. “I was very new to this space. The first question I asked was ‘What questions should I be asking?‘”
So Henderson did what any good biz dev person does, connect with those who can help. He reached out to the media. He utilized his network, and expanded upon it. Before long, YouEye was offered an invite to demo at the Launch Conference in 2011. “We went with roughest of prototypes, but got some really great feedback and added media coverage.”
It was at this point the duo decided to head west to Mountain View. “In terms of getting connected with great investors, we considered it a must.”
Investors Are Where You Least Expect Them
In 2011, Henderson was asked at the last minute to give a presentation at SXSW. “There was zero chance I would be able to get a hotel room that close to the conference,” so Henderson made accommodations through Airbnb. As it turns out, his host was a fellow startup founder. During his first night’s stay, Henderson and his host began trading stories about one another’s companies. They hit it off pretty quickly. “During my second night, I didn’t get back until really late, after a series of meetings and events. When I walked in, he gave me a beer and asked to go back on his patio. Without missing a beat, he asked if he could put some money into our company. You just never know where opportunity is hiding.”
Idea to Actualization
YouEye officially launched their first product back in November and have had great success since. The user testing service took home the Best Technology Award at the Launch Conference 2012 for 2.0 companies and have such customers as Bing, Airbnb, Zappos, Harvard University and Klout. “We’re really proud of how far we’ve come.”
Advice to Entrepreneurs
As previously mentioned, for Henderson, this was the first attempt at building a company from the ground up. Needless to say, he had no choice but to learn on the job quickly. When asked what the biggest takeaway from the last two years has been, he responded, “Connect with everyone. If anything has worked well for us, it’s this principle. Be present at everything. Always take a quick conversation. Always share an idea for what you think you could do with or for someone.”
Henderson added a few more notes that were helpful in YouEye’s early success:
- Focus on how are you can make your customer look better. Enable them to learn more. Help them do their job better. If you can make someone a better person, you’ll make a fan for life.
- Kathy Sierra’s work.
- The importance of Minimum Viable Product from Eric Ries’ Lean Startup. Henderson credits much of their pricing model on their ability to build products and obtain user feedback quickly. “When you focus on a deadline, it forces you to be really creative.”
Want to learn more? Watch this video to see more about how YouEye works.